Texas judge to reconsider drunk driver's public humiliation

Posted Apr 30, 2012 by Arthur Weinreb
The judge has suspended the public punishment of a drunk driver after concerns arose about the man's safety. The convicted drunk driver was ordered to go to the accident scene wearing a sign indicating what he had done.
Screen capture - KHOU
Screen capture - KHOU
On Friday, Judge Michael R. Fields of the Harris County Court, announced he was suspending the public humiliation of a convicted drunk driver after reports about the hostile treatment Michael Giacona had received.
Last June, Giacona, 39, ran a red light and smashed into a Mustang driven by 20-year-old Aaron Pennywell. Pennywell was pronounced dead at the scene.
Giacona was later convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Despite the fact this was his second DWI conviction and his drinking and driving caused a person's death, he received a jail sentence of only 90 days.
In addition to the jail time, Giacona was placed on probation for a period of two years. One of the conditions of his probation was that he had to spend from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on four consecutive Saturdays at the accident scene. While there, Giacona was required to wear a placard that read "I killed Aaron Pennywell while driving drunk."
In addition to these public appearances. the convicted drunk driver was also ordered to keep a picture of Pennywell's demolished car in his house and to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
A probation officer was assigned to monitor Giacona while at the accident scene on Saturdays.
Giacona was released from jail and went to the accident scene on April 21, the first Saturday he was required to do so. Many of the victim's friends and family also showed up. The Houston Chronicle reports some passers-by gave the convicted driver a hard time. Pennyworth's mother is quoted as saying, There were some kids that came that walked up to him and cussed him out. We have no idea who it was. The judge put him out there for public humiliation. He should have expected some of that. But nobody threatened his life.
Some people are in favour of the public humiliation of Giacona. Pam Lewandowski, a family friend of the Pennywells, was quoted by KHOU as saying, I loved it because that way he has to show more accountability for what he does and let other people know what drunk driving does.
And John McNamee, the executive director of the local branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was quoted by Fox News saying that although this was not the family's idea, "The mother said she loved the idea."
And Fox also quoted Joe Wisser, a retired Texas judge who said, Maybe we should try shaming people more often. The law permits a judge to use any reasonable means of punishment.
Not everyone thinks Giacona's punishment was appropriate. A woman described this aspect of the sentence as "barbaric" and compared it to women who were forced to wear scarlet letters.
Judge Fields will reassess the sentence on Wednesday.